Health and Safety

Job keeping people healthy and safe at work not done yet

June, 2021

By: Melanie McKay

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He may have just received a Lifetime Achievement Award the invaluable contribution he has made in advancing the level of professionalism in the industry, but Paul Jarvie says his job is far from done yet.

While he was pleased to accept the accolade, given at the Safeguard New Zealand Health and Safety Awards earlier in the month, he had some interesting things to say about changing our country’s narrative around health and safety.

“The reality is that our accident data has not really changed despite all the efforts thus far. We still need to change the focus from compliance and injury prevention to harm prevention and wellbeing, including occupational and mental health.”

“We need more strategic and design-driven solutions for the workplace, workflow and workload of the modern workplace because even after 40 years, ACC figures still show that slips, trips and falls, along with strains and sprains, as the single biggest injury outcomes.”

“That’s no different to what it was in 1974 when ACC was first introduced because we haven’t come far enough in redesigning workplaces to consider workflow or workload correctly.”

And Mr Jarvie warns that there is no time to lose as the Future of Work is already here.

“Jobs are changing and disruption is occurring and AI (artificial intelligence) is becoming more noticeable. Where does H&S fit into these spaces? We have an increasingly ageing workforce with particular requirements, so the old regimes simply will not fit.”

“I find it interesting that annual reports often mention that staff are their most important asset, yet they are reflected as a cost to businesses in their financial reports. If they are assets, how much resource is provided to actually maintain, grow or enhance that asset?”

Paul says the tendency in New Zealand to respond when necessary and react to the issues of the day instead of putting plans together based on scrutiny and interrogation of data must stop.

“We know the burden of occupation health is at least 10 times that of injury, yet nothing has changed. The cost to New Zealand of ill health is estimated to be around $2.3b, and around $120b because of absences caused by illness.”

Occupational health and mental health are the two challenging issues requiring major rethinks as to how we are going to mitigate those risks, he says.

“We need a more across-the-board approach to harm prevention using the dozen or so players who work in the workplace health and safety space.  A collaborative approach will always succeed.”

“We need professionals with a passion and a desire to change the system, where hurdles become steps, barriers become rethinks, and nay sayers become theory testers. We need professionals who have enough essential skills to actually implement the core skills they’ve learned as part of their qualification.”

“But qualifications alone are not enough. The soft skills are the cement between the blocks. They hold it all together. Language and communications are the biggest tools in a safety professional’s tool box.

“We must be impatient with mediocrity. Near enough and average have no place here.  We need positive, affirmative, evidenced-based programmes to address known risk factors. These must be outcome come based and health and safety professionals have a duty to question, to research and look for better solutions.”

Health and safety at the heart of Lifetime Achievement Award  

Paul has been part of the EMA team for more than 30 years and is currently its Employment Relations and Safety Manager. Alongside working tirelessly for the EMA’s 7,400 business members, he has helped grow the capability of health and safety practitioners for the benefit of workplaces across the country.

He is a past national manager of NZISM (New Zealand Institute of Safety Management), prepared the first set of professional standards for New Zealand health and safety practitioners, and formed the first connections with IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health).

This meant for the first time NZISM members could be graded on the Institution’s professional development framework and use its professional development facility.

Paul was also instrumental in the formation of the original OHSIG (Occupational Health and Safety Interest Group), which provided a unified channel of communication to advocate for workplace health and safety and practitioner professionalism with the Government.

Internationally he has work with the ILO (International Labour Organisation) on codes of practice and with the World Bank to ensure it considers health and safety implications before making loans.

For the EMA he has designed the highly respected Health and Safety Diploma course, and other related training, and was also on the committee which developed the influential AS/NZS 4801 and 4801 standards.

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